|Me and my sister at Disney Word circa 1991|
On our family vacations, my parents always gave us spending money. This, I suppose, eliminated the perpetual whining in retail stores and demonstrated to us the value of a dollar. Standing at the gates of the Magic Kingdom, our little faces would tilt up expectantly to hear how much credit was going to be applied to our "account."
Within hours my sister would have typically blown every dollar she was given. She'd prance around fantasy land in a flashy hat, clutching a stuffed animal with the tag still in it's ear.
In direct contrast, the last day of vacation always found me with every dollar still intact. I agonized over the need to make a decision. There were so many choices, good choices. Would I make the right one? Perhaps around the next bend, the next park, there would be something even better. My parents, wanting to return home, would prod me to just "pick something already."
I envied my sister's ability not to be tormented by the responsibility of choosing. She acted and enjoyed. I didn't act and even after acting did not always enjoy.
Every day we each spend a large amount of time making choices. We open a closet full of clothes and debate over the shirt, pant, shoe combination. Which cereal will we pour into which bowl? Prior to this we had to make a decision at the grocery about which cereal to purchase. There was an entire aisle full of different brands and several varieties within each of those. Likewise we had to determine where we would buy the clothes hanging in our closets. Once at that destination we had to decide from racks of options what we wanted to purchase.
These are only the minute, mundane choices of daily routine. Other choices range from modestly important to life changing. What pediatrician to take your infant to, which college to attend, what church to join, who to marry.
All these choices can lead to a feeling of power. They offer us the thrilling comfort of a customizable life that we believe we have relative control over.
But a handful of trips to Africa would be the breaking down of any power illusions I held. At first I gained more gratitude for the choices available to me. I got to live a life of variety, opportunity and potential. Yet as I spent more time in Uganda a growing suspicion began to brood in my heart. I started to wonder if I was the master of choice, or if choice, like in my childhood days at Disney World, was mastering me?
To Be Continued